Just wondering if anyone knew of a solution to the below:

Basically I have the middle shape with the appropriate drop shadow effect applied, but I only want the drop shadow to show on the shapes underneath it not on the outside.

Does anyone have any suggestions? The only joy I had was changing the drop shadow effect to overlay but this caused issues when exporting to an svg.


enter image description here enter image description here

  • 2
    Use transparent gradients, or simply gradients on the underlying shapes, not the canned drop shadow effect.
    – Scott
    Oct 12, 2020 at 11:18
  • Yeah it was tricky to get it looking as good as the drop shadow default effect, I ended up using the drop shadow effect and expanding the appearance of it, then clip masking it to the shape and it looks exactly how I wanted it to, but kinda feel it's an overly complicated way.
    – Nick Else
    Oct 12, 2020 at 11:23

2 Answers 2


There are several possible ways to do this. This one is non-destructive:

  1. Here I have used a drop shadow on the top shape (which is a rounded rectangle).

  2. Then I duplicated all the shapes of the logo, and did a Path Finder Union on it.

  3. Finally I grouped the logo, then applied the united shape as clipping mask to the group.

Using this method, there's no need to expand anything, and the edit is non-destructive. So, you will still be able edit the drop shadow as an effect.


enter image description here

  • Really like this method. Thank you.
    – Nick Else
    Oct 12, 2020 at 14:56
  • @NickElse Just a note to say this also seems to work well when saved as an SVG and viewed in Chrome and Firefox, although the drop shadow gets rasterized. I haven't tested any other browsers with it.
    – Billy Kerr
    Oct 12, 2020 at 15:04
  • @NickElse If you don't want any rasterization, the idea to use a gradient might be better. Another possibility is to use an SVG Drop Shadow effect. Not sure how well this would work in Illustrator, but it would certainly be an alternative solution for Inkscape.
    – Billy Kerr
    Oct 12, 2020 at 15:14

The drop shadow is basically a transparent blurred black copy of the shape, so you can as well make it by yourself as a separate shape. That copy can have a mask (=clip or transparency, both work) You can also convert the shadow effect to a shape by expanding the appearance:

Warning: You have got a suggestion "use gradients". That's no-nonsense because expanding blurry effects generates raster images which cannot be scaled freely like vectors. See it in the Appearance panel.

Expanding drop shadow fortunately saves the original shape, but generates a group which has a raster image as the shadow. You must be careful you have high enough raster effect resolution in the document settings.

Unfortunately gradients are tricky for complex shapes, you may need a gradient mesh.

In Illustrator you keep the scalability if your shadow is a separate masked blurred shape or a masked copy of the whole shape which has the drop shadow effect. Scaling problems due rasterization start if you export to another vector formats. For example a shape with Gaussian Blur effect exported as SVG opens as a raster image in Inkscape.

Gradient meshes also cause export problems. Only the ordinary linear and radial gradients are well supported in other vector formats.

  • Yeah this is what I ended up doing, I expanded the appearance of the shape with the drop shadow, then clip masked it to the shape underneath which has worked and looks perfect now, just felt it I might be over-complicating a bit but thank you for your reply.
    – Nick Else
    Oct 12, 2020 at 11:24

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